April 30, 2009

From the Front: 04/30/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Bad Dogs and Such: Arts and Crafts - This place is like the summer camp from Hell, really. Less singing, and no canoes, but other than that... To kill time as things have slowed down, we've started to make things with our own little grubby paws. It started when we ordered some pewter skull beads just for kicks, and it's gone downhill from there. Because, of course, if you start with pewter skull beads, then you start to wonder what other skull beads might be out there. Then, after you string some beads, you start to feel mighty crafty. You notice you have some 550 cord, and that there are other, cooler colors available. If you're shockingly uninclined to figure out how to do arts and crafts on your own, there are websites out there to help you. And eventually you end up having days that produce this: (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Now That The Cat's Out Of The Bag: I REALLY Like This - The irrepressible Christian Bleuer of Ghosts of Alexander has found the document on the web. This document was posted on the Army's BCKS (Battle Command Knowledge System,) an internal password-protected forum that includes many lines of discussion, one of which (thank God,) is COIN. I don't drag documents off of the more secure side into the public, but now that the cat's out of the bag, let's go. The document, "Winning in Afghanistan" was written by CPT Carl Thompson, a Maryland Army National Guard officer who is embarking on his fourth tour in the War on Terror Overseas Contingency Operation. It is an amazing document. I have linked to Bleuer's PDF file, as it is the most accessible and readable. I spoke with CPT Thompson by phone this morning, catching him in the field at Camp Shelby, MS, where he is training for his second deployment as an ETT. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban still in control in Dir - The Taliban are in control of much of the northern district of Dir despite claims by senior Pakistani officials that the region was secured after a day's fighting. The Pakistani military operation, which began on April 26, focused on the Madain region in the southern portion of the district of Dir. The Madain region hosts the home town of Sufi Mohammed, the pro-Taliban cleric who is behind the Malakand accord, the peace agreement that established sharia in Malakand, Dir, Chitral, Swat, Shangla, Buner, and Kohistan and put an end to military operations in Swat. "The government's writ seems non-existent for nearly 20km from the southern tip of the district," the BBC reported. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: CHU Sweet CHU - I live in a shipping container. Literally. It's a standard 40-ft shipping container that has been converted into two living quarters. In military parlance, it's a "Containerized Housing Unit", or CHU, pronounced just like it's spelled. My room is the one on the bottom on this end. I've got dirtbags in the front (again, literally: that's what those bluish shapes are, big wire mesh framed bags of dirt) and concrete T-walls behind me. They're there to provide protection against things that might come flying at us at high speed. Like bullets. On the side of the container, you can still see the big steel doors. Come to think of it, I hope they're welded or locked shut ... remind me to check on that tomorrow. (This image, by the way, is a watercolor that I just finished up.) Here are a few pictures of my own little nest. As you can see, it's been upgraded from your basic shipping container. It has rather stylish faux-white-pine panelling, a bed, a desk, and a large and noisy air conditioner (very necessary). (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Letting Poppy Kill the Counterinsurgency - With British press filling with stories of the British military’s inferiority in Helmand, it is important to examine very closely what the plan is for the U.S. Marines heading to the south this summer. Dexter Filkins has just such a report, and it is not promising: “American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations. The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency.” While I cannot come up with a tagline as witty as Andrew Exum, I did notice that Filkins buried the lede here: (READ MORE)

111 Infantry Recon: Air Mobile… - Hello to all: I know that i have not posted in some time, please forgive me. Our unit recently conducted the Brigade’s first air assault mission. Air assault means that we utilize helicopters to get where we need to go. It was a solid mission. The Iraqi Army that we took with us never flew before, so they were pumped. Your soliders performed just as I expected them to… well. http://www.dvidshub.net/units/56SBCT-28ID if you follow this link, you will see some footage of the mission. Please do not judge me on the interview. You would think that they would have given me the questions ahead of time, to prepare.. haha.. Anyway, I am going to attempt to post more often. Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity to take a lot of pictures on mission, but I know that some of the guys do, so when you talk to them, pressure them to post onto the site. (READ MORE)

C CO 1-111th INF: 4th Platoon (GREEN), Charlie Company - Recently Choctaw 6 has granted the platoons publishing access to the company blog. This will prove to be an excellent addition to the blog, allowing families and friends to see and hear from their soldiers' individual platoons. On a day-to-day basis we find ourselves working closely with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police as they continue to develop greater autonomy and proficiency in patrolling and securing the country of Iraq. The soldiers' of this platoon are, in my opinion, the hardest working men you'll find. They are constantly finding themselves in situations that require much flexibility and quick thinking, as many missions are not your standard combat misisons. The men work with interpreters and their Iraqi counterparts to support operations throughout our operational environment (OE). (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Tallil: Iraqi CALFEX - CALFEX stands for Combined Arms Live Fire EXercise. This mission was to occur in March before the Sorority Soldier went to Hollywood; however, we live by the creed Semper Gumby. It became the job of Poker Stars, McLovin and myself to cover the event. The CALFEX featured the Iraqis calling for fire from several types of artillery, Multiple Rocket Launch Vehicles and an F-16 dropping some tonnage. They also showed a platoon of soldiers dropping in by helicopter and moving towards an objective. It was a good show in front of a lot of VIP’s in the Iraqi Government and US Military. did a piece designed to show the Iraqi public affairs what they can do with their footage. I don’t plan on publishing it because it’s nothing close to journalism. I did put up our B-Roll and interviews. The 10th Mountain Commander, MG Michael Oates, is a soundbite machine. He gave us three great soundbites in 42 seconds. We also found an Iraqi General that spoke excellent English. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

A patrol in South Balad Ruz - DIYALA, Iraq – In the previously volatile South Balad Ruz area of Diyala, units of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment are continually patrolling the area, bringing safety and stability to the region. One such unit is 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regt. With the Iraqi Army, the operation was just one part of a series of combined patrols designed to bring stability to the region. (READ MORE)

Renovated Votech Center increases job training opportunities in Babil Province - Babil Province, Iraq— Community leaders, media and coalition representatives gathered for a grand opening to showcase the newly renovated $5.4 million Iskandariyah Vocational Technology Center April 22. Dr. Reyad Hassan, executive general manager at the Iraqi Ministry of Labor, officiated the grand opening with the assistance of newly-elected Babil provincial leaders. (READ MORE)

Citizens reap benefits of ISOF operational successes in Ninewa Province - TIKRIT, Iraq – Mosul Iraqi Special Operations Forces units with Coalition forces advisors arrested two suspected terrorist cell members operating in the Ninewa Province during a joint operation April 22. Mosul ISOF, partnered with the Regional Reconnaissance Team, split to form two teams and dispersed to separate locations to arrest suspected terrorists on warrants issued by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Tactical Maintenance Team Keeps Security Forces Rolling - JOINT BASE BALAD — Security Forces Airmen in the 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here constantly go outside the wire to perform missions, and they rely on protection from Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles to get them through the mission and back to base safely. "Every morning and afternoon as ground combat patrols get ready to leave here, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron tactical mobile maintenance team members stand ready like crew chiefs on F-16s ready to roll in and fix whatever will stop the patrols from executing their missions," said Col. John Decknick, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group commander. (READ MORE)

Water Treatment Facility Opens West of Baghdad - BAGHDAD, April 29, 2009 – Close to a thousand families in the Khandari area west of the Iraqi capital now have clean water for everyday use, as the Khandari Water Treatment Facility opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 27 in the Abu Ghraib district. Contracted through the local government and Multinational Division Baghdad, the facility, which took close to three months to complete, treats and purifies 5 million to 8 million gallons of water per-day. (READ MORE)

Gains in Afghanistan Tied to Pakistan, Marine General Says - WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – Any gains in Afghanistan will be tied to the coalition’s ability to tighten control of the Pakistan border, the top Marine officer said today. In a briefing to Pentagon reporters, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway said his 8,000 Marines deploying to southern Afghanistan this spring face “tough days ahead.” (READ MORE)

On Tour with Toby Keith: Danger, Excitement, Gratitude - WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – Country music megastar Toby Keith has performed for rowdy, appreciative troops more than 130 times over seven straight years. But during this year’s “America’s Toughest Tour,” he said, “The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before.” Keith set out on his latest tour, sponsored by the USO and Armed Forces Entertainment, from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., April 21. His goals: meet as many troops and perform at as many remote bases as possible. The “FOB-hopping” trip took the performers to within six miles of the Pakistan border. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill More Than 40 Insurgents - WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces today killed an estimated 42 insurgents during operations in Oruzgan, Helmand and Lowgar provinces. In Oruzgan province, Afghan National Police and coalition forces were conducting a routine combat reconnaissance patrol in Langar, Tarin Kowt District, when they were attacked by several militants with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, from multiple sides. (READ MORE)

Marines Engineer Afghanistan-Worthy MRAP - WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – The Marines are working to build an Afghanistan-worthy mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. With 8,000 Marines on their way there now, the Marine Corps wants an off-road version of the MRAP that is now fielded, said Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway at a news conference here today. (READ MORE)

Quetta based Taliban leaders moves to Karachi, Peshawar fearing drone attacks - Peshawar, Apr 30 : A large number of Taliban leaders have shifted from Quetta to Karachi, Peshawar and other cities and are maintaining a low profile fearing fresh US drone strikes. Taliban leaders after discussing in detail the situation, caused by recent threats of drone attacks by the United States, United Kingdom and other allies, have decided to vacate Quetta with immediate effect, sources have said. (READ MORE)

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